Machel Montano. Photo Facebook
When did you fall in love with soca? I was 10 years old, attending a Carnival Prince and Princess competition at the Lionel Roberts Stadium in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, with my mom. During the intermission, I heard Trinidadian soca artist Machel Montano's song Too Young to Soca. The rhythm and lyrics spoke to me. That was the day I fell in love with soca music and became a Machel fan.
Too Young to Soca was Machel's breakthrough single. It was the song he performed at the Trinidad and Tobago Calypso Monarch Competition in 1986, where he made history as the youngest calypsonian to compete. Fast forward, the former child star is now a bonafide soca legend, selling out shows, headlining performances abroad, and collaborating with award-winning artists worldwide, from the United States to Nigeria to Norway.
Bringing Soca Music to The World
Machel Montano has had a remarkable 40-year career and is credited for taking soca music mainstream. He became an ambassador of soca music at an early age. In 1984, at age 10, Machel performed at Madison Square Garden as a guest act for Calypso icon, Mighty Sparrow. Two years later, he appeared on the popular U.S. television show Star Search, bringing soca to American viewers. Since then, Machel has devoted his life to finding new vehicles to get soca music to the international circuit.
In the mid-90s, with his band Xtatik, Machel embarked on a journey to take soca music to the next level by fusing reggae, dancehall, and hip-hop beats into his songs. This led to a slew of Road March and Soca Monarch wins, superstar status across the Caribbean, and paved the way for sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden. The 47-year-old has also had a string of high-profile collaborations that cross genres – from R&B singer Ashanti to rapper Lil Jon to classic rock artist Walker Hornung.
Machel Montano and Ashanti. Photo @chekothari
"I have been pushing the envelope, trying to revolutionize soca, trying to improve its quality. It is very difficult to bring this music to the mainstream and at the same time stay grounded at home, but we have created a sound that we believe is palatable to all markets and can play on the radio in rotation with other popular songs and genres," Machel noted on Machelmontano.com.
An Anniversary Celebration to Remember
This year, Machel Montano hit the stage to celebrate 40 years in music. He kicked off his anniversary tour in April with Mele, his first post-pandemic performance. The five-day fete in Cancun, Mexico, brought the feel and essence of Trinidad's carnival to revelers living abroad. Mr. Fete gave over 3,000 attendees pure bacchanal at Moon Palace Resort, with a grand parade, steel-pan performers, pool parties, and stellar performances by other Caribbean artists: Lyrika, Destra, Patrice Roberts, Voice, and Beenie Man.
The celebration continued in Orlando this summer and then Brooklyn, New York. Machel came full circle to the city known as "Little Caribbean"where he made his mark as a rising star with the love and support of the West Indian immigrant community.
On Labor Day, the soca phenomenon delivered a spirited performance of his many hits with irrepressible on-stage energy to a sea of fans. Together with guest performers, Machel brought pure mass to the Soca Kingdom stage at The Barclays Center.
Machel Montano 40th Anniversary Concert - Brooklyn, New York. Photo Facebook
His anniversary celebration would not be complete without a tell-all memoir. And Machel did not disappoint. 'King of Soca' launched in July. The book, written by his mother, the "ultimate insider," Elizabeth "Lady" Montano, chronicles the beloved artist's rise to fame and his four-decade long music career.
"There is something you realize in this music business: if you really push, you go further," he told Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.
The soca singer, actor, record producer, and songwriter attributes his success to not being afraid to push beyond his limits. He also credits the soca giants that came before him, the Mighty Sparrow, Lord Kitchener, and others, for their influence on his success.
King of Soca is available at bookstores in Trinidad and kingofsoca.com.